For Sale:Shakespeare Characters

By Patric Hedlund

Success often brings surprises. The unexpected happened this month when board members of The Mountain Shakespeare Festival (MSF) extended their marketing to raise the prominence of the theatre company, expand its offerings and attract visitors from surrounding counties.

In fact, they won a Kern County Board of Trade grant to do just that. MSF Board members Stacey Havener and Mary Main explained to the Chamber of Commerce last week that they reasoned the Festival’s higher profile would be good for the mountain’s retail businesses, restaurants and realtors.

But MSF’s rapid success at raising their visibility suddenly brought them an unexpected mark of distinction: a big invoice from the Actors Equity union.

Every weekend in July, a repertory offering of a Shakespeare play and a classic 20th century comedy will be performed at the refurbished Pine Mountain Village gazebo.

It turns out that the union’s "rotating rep" waiver has to be applied for a year in advance, so the group will qualify next year, but not this.

That poses a challenge. The actors are waiving their actual paychecks, but the union’s insurance program requirements have to be met. A large down payment on a $6,400 bill for union actors’ benefits has to be made within weeks and the clock is ticking, explained MSF Artistic Director Peter Kjenaas [pronounced Chennis].

"The union is being really nice about it and we are planning to set up an Equity candidacy program to qualify young actors for membership in the union in the future, but they have their rules, and we have to respect that," Kjenaas said.

The Festival’s board of directors has come up with some exciting ideas to meet the challenge. Here’s a summary of their plan.

Sponsor a Character

By Kat Fair, MSF Managing Director

Haven’t you always wanted to be known as a patron of the arts? Now you can be. The Mountain Shakespeare Festival has begun a "Sponsor A Character" campaign. Productions of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Kaufman and Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You, and the Old Time Radio Plays will be performed during the month of July, beginning Friday, July 4, in the Pine Mountain Gazebo.

Donations of $25 or more will provide "your character" with costume, make-up, script and even set. Then, when you come to see the shows, you can proudly say "There’s my character! That’s my costume!"

The character sponsorship levels and benefits are:

$25 Groundling – program rec ognition and 1 free ticket

$50 Dramatist – program recognition, 2 free tickets

$75 Patron – program recognition, two free tickets, free ¼ page program ad

$100 Benefactor – program recognition, two free tickets, free ¼ page program ad, Festival signage recognition

$250 Champion – program recognition, four free tickets, ½ page program ad, Festival signage recognition

$500+ Premier – program recognition, 8 free tickets, free full page ad, Festival signage recognition, contribution recognition on our website

The company this year is made up of many local talented people.

In alphabetical order they are: Cam Acosta, Cameron Black, Cheyenne Bell, Debbie Bell, Gigi Day, Sarah Driscoll, Brittany Driscoll, Bill Fair, Colton Fair, Kat Fair, Stacey Havener, Bill Hobson, Wednesday Hobson, Nick Johnson, Peter Kjenaas, David Mack, Mary Main, Pam McGee, Michelle Morain, Beans Morocco, Carey Moulder, Tommy Natoli, Shannon Norris, Delaney Peterson, Jacob Perry, Bob Saberhagen, David Stenstrom, Janine Tominaga, Charlotte Van Houten.

For more information and how to participate in the program, call 242-1289 or 242-6904, or go to

This is part of the June 20, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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